Writing Ebooks Faster And Flawlessly Is About Not Letting Fear And Doubt Cripple You. Ignore That Constant Itch To Stop The Flow To See How You Sound
There are people online who write articles titled “How To Write an Ebook In 30 days!” There are also those who write articles titled “How To Write an Ebook In 7 Days!” And I have recently seen a writer say she can can turn out 7 ebooks in 1 day! Wow!
It’s become an online race to write fast for any digital information product. The issue though is not just to write fast – but to be fast AND flawless. Your speed must be such that your output is so fluent and close to perfect first time around, that it requires less editing time at the end.
As with Usain Bolt, practice makes perfect.
At Solohacks Academy, we believe the more you write, the more you can write. Then speed grows. Then speed with perfection grows. Eventually, it’s all like a torrential flow from your mind to your device. Speed and perfection become incidental to the quality of insights that pour out of you. That’s called mojo and nothing can beat that feeling. Believe me.
1. The blank computer screen syndrome doesn’t exist: write any tripe to get yourself back into full writing flow
There are some things people repeat so often that everybody starts believing them. One such concept is how writers often have a “writer’s block” when the blank computer screen before them begins to look daunting. This “writer’s-block-cum-blank-screen-syndrome” is touted to be the top reason for slow writing.
I have to admit that in all these 40 years of being a writer, I have never ever had this writer’s block nor had to fear looking every morning into a blank computer screen.
It was all because of a great boss I had in my advertising copywriter days who taught me a trick to get my writing brain into full flow. You see, like every old car on a cold morning, the brain that has been asleep needs a bit of cranking up.
The secret to getting the brain into full flow in an instant, when you open your laptop each morning, is to start by writing any few sentences your brain throws up – call it the “tripe exercise”. For example, I may write a couple of paragraphs of sentences like this:
Drat this writing. No words are coming to me, and I have a whole lot of writing to finish. This computer is so damn uncooperative.
By the way, Jennie had another piece of news yesterday about Barbara’s haircut going all awry. Funny, how Barbara is so fussy and it always happens to her.
Anyway, here I am now going to write the same sentence at least 5 times. I have to get this writing done. I just have to get this writing done. How am I going to get this writing done? When am I going to get this writing done? What is going to help me get this writing done …”
What all that gibberish was about no one knows. It was just putting down whatever came into my head. Going with the flow, as it were. But it works like the blazes. Try it.
Just write whatever you think of, following the flow of your consciousness. Suddenly, the sleepy brain cells wake up and some cogency begins to appear. The slow fingers begin typing fast to catch up with the flow of thoughts. And before you know it you’re ready to write on the real subject of your ebook. You’ve found the mojo to fill the blank screen – with really worthwhile words you never knew were inside you.
All it takes is getting the mind to move – and initially, you have to let it move wherever it wants and follow it by typing up its tripe and nonsense. When the brain becomes more ready-to-go, then you let it roam free on the topic you have to write about, and by then your fingers have to play catch up with the speed at which your brain is naturally flying.
With such a simple trick to jumpstart your brain-hand coordination, why does everybody moan about “writer’s block” and “blank computer screen”, I often wonder.
2. Writing and editing require two different parts of the brain to be used: mix them up and you’ll give your brain too much to handle
The other big cause of slow writing is that some authors fall into the habit of editing as they write. They stop to read their previous sentences, see how it sounds, tweak a word here and there – and generally get themselves lost down the alley of “perfecting” instead of continuing to write on.
Editing is important to writing, but only if it’s done as a separate exercise after the writing, and not during it. If editing mode hits your brain while writing, the writing mode of your brain stops working. That’s because most of us don’t know that entirely different parts of the brain are used for thinking, speaking, writing, or editing. So, naturally, if your brain parts that act when editing are at work, the brain parts that are supposed to be at work writing have to shut down.
During writing, your brain has to follow your natural flow of thoughts. It’s in a flow mode without boundaries. During editing, your brain has to stop and question everything – the grammar, the spellings, the syntax. The brain is in an analytical and self-limited focus mode. Writing is thus an expansive brain activity. Editing, by nature, is a constriction-based brain-focus activity.
The two, if mixed, can addle the brain. Your brain will find it difficult to go back to being expansive to write more, after you’ve deliberately constricted it to focus on the perfecting of what you’ve already written.
Besides, editing is also addictive and never-ending. There’s no limit to fine-tuning anything. With every re-read, you will find other ways to say the same thing which sound better – and so you will get trapped in your own maze of perfectionism.
People often say, “The good is the enemy of the great”. For authors of ebooks who want to write fast, though, I’d say, “Great is the enemy of the good”. Depends on what you want to achieve. You can have both goodness and greatness if your brain does one activity after another instead of simultaneously.
Fast writing is good, and flawless writing is good too. Just don’t fuss over flawlessness while doing the fast writing. It’s counterproductive.
3. Finding the “right” word is a luxury for most writers: don’t get overfussy about finding those perfect words and cut your writing flow
One difference you’ll find between fast writers and slow writers is that fast writers initially use any word that fits what they want to say – whereas slow writers always want to look up the thesaurus for just that “one right word” that is eluding them. Time gets spent looking up and testing every option the thesaurus throws up – and then when you’re still dissatisfied, you start graduating to the “power thesaurus” to spend more time on it hunting for the “even better just right” word.
In the English language there are so many words that are almost similar, but they all have slight nuances in meaning that make them a tad different from each other. If you get going with the first word that comes to mind in a sentence you have to write, you can always do the thesaurus-lookups later, when polishing your prose.
If you find you are getting trapped up at every turn by the need to find the right word, try this. Write sentences like this one below, with some options, so that you can remember to go back to them to find a better word in place of the one you’ve used. For example:
It’s hard to discover (ferret out, find, explore, latch onto) your best business niche if you’re only looking within yourself. You have to look at market popularity of your niche idea too.”
Notice, how I’ve put in some of the words I could alternatively use in brackets – so I know I have to come back later to use the “right word” that means what I want it to mean.
Notice, also, how the four quick options I have got seem similar, but they are also slightly distinct from each other. Each has a nuance that means something slightly different, or has a different energy to it.
It’s okay, and good, to want to use powerful words instead of weak ones, but again not while you are in the flow of writing. Put in a question mark or brackets wherever you find you are not “quite there” in your sense of expression, and come back to it later at the vocabulary-polishing stage.
4. If writing a serious ebook at speed daunts you, here’s a trick: it’s easier if you start with “Dear Beth” and end with “Warm regards”
Many a writer, who has to write an ebook with some serious knowledge in it, has moments of trepidation wondering if he knows enough to fill a whole ebook, or has the energy for “expertise projection” at speed. You feel as if you have to produce that “bestseller” because the competition is so grand-sounding, you can’t be any less. And you have to get it done fast and flawlessly too.
When you put the expectation of nothing short of excellence on yourself, there are three problems:
- One, you feel as if every sentence you write has to ooze knowledge. Your language thus becomes stilted and artificial because you are focused on how you are coming through, rather than what the reader is going to get from it.
- Two, the writing feels like heavy-going because every word is being measured in your mind as a reflection of your knowledge level. Self-esteem issues make your style text-book-ish, and slows you down.
- Three, if you find your writing heavy, chances are it will feel even heavier to your readers. After all, words have to resonate and provoke the reader, and not dull the reader’s mind with pedantry.
Could it be that you are too apprehensive about how your book will sound to your readers? Do you feel that your ebook isn’t full of compelling, forceful, and knowledgeable thoughts, as it should be? The last thing to do, in such cases, is to force the issue. Instead, back off – and be as casual as you can get.
The simple way to get casual and authentic about your writing is to write it like you would write a letter to a good friend. Seriously, take this piece of advice and profit from it.
Start your writing with the greeting, “Dear Beth,” and then write your topic out as if writing a letter to your friend Beth. Then at the end, wind up with “Warm regards”. Next morning, when you knock off the “Dear Beth” and the “Warm regards”, you’ll find you have written so fluidly and brilliantly that even a heavy subject requiring depth and breadth of knowledge comes across like a breeze.
It’s not the writing that’s your problem. It’s the need to sound big that’s your problem, and it cuts your writing speed and natural magnetism. When you write a letter to a friend you familiar with, however, all that self-consciousness gets out of the way, and you are able to produce tons of fast writing in a very conversational tone that makes mincemeat of the heaviest topics.
5. Writing to a pattern creates enormous speed: have a detailed outline planned so you have to write less on each point of the outline
I once did a course with my good friend Rob Powell that taught people how to write well to score on SEO. I learned a lot from that course, but one especial thing that stuck with me was an incidental point Rob Powell had made. He said that if we had an elaborate outline of what we wanted to write about, we would have so many points to write on that we would need to write very few words under each point.
How true that was. Ever since, I have always ensured that my outlines for what I want to write are so comprehensive and detailed, that when I have to elaborate, I have to write very less.
Let’s take an example: Say we have to write a chapter titled: “How to market your ecommerce product.”
- In the outline set yourself a target to find at least ten ways to market your ecommerce product. Write out the titles of these ten main points.
- Then under each of the ten main points, find five sub-points to show the steps of activity involved. Write out their sub-titles.
- Then under each step of activity, include four points to be cautious of when performing the activity, to avoid getting poor results. Write out titles for these caution-points.
You’ve now got 10 main points x 5 sub-points x 4 caution points … that’s 200 points. A sentence or two, of about 50 words, under each of the 200 points should give you a whole chapter of about 10,000 words. Plus, people will say how “step-by-step and useful” that chapter was.
Was that easy or what?
6. There are many ways to write – you can do longhand, typing or even dictating to your laptop: whatever achieves fluidity is right
Even in this age of people typing with two fingers on a laptop keyboard, there are tons of people who still prefer writing in longhand because it helps them write faster. There are also tons of people dictating to their computers and getting it converted as speech-to-text.
The secret to writing fast is to capture your thoughts as fast as they flit in and out of your mind. If a pencil and paper do it for you, that’s good. If you can handle typing on a keyboard with good speed, do that. And if all else fails, dictate to your computer via a software like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
The software Dragon Naturally Speaking is unique, because it now understands non-American and non-British English well. As in my case, it even understands Indian-English.
One of the advantages of dictating to a text-to-speech software is this. When you speak, your sentences are short. For instance, take this sentence (which is a classic example of the written language of an author):
I have always ensured that my outlines for what I want to write about are so comprehensive and detailed, that when I have to elaborate, I have to write very less.”
Notice how normal it looks when typed and read off a page. But if you’re reading that sentence aloud, in a speaking voice, it would be a tad difficult to modulate your voice correctly across the clauses in the sentence. If you were speaking to your computer, though, it would be probably said like this:
I have always ensured that my outlines for my article are comprehensive and detailed. This helps me when I need to elaborate. I have to write very less.”
Notice how much easier it is to read the second spoken version than the first written version. Speaking naturally cuts out the needless verbiage and comes to the point more directly. It also shortens sentences. And finally, it does help to get your ebook written faster if you have a computer typing out your dictated words.
7. Give yourself well-timed breaks when you change subjects or topics: your brain needs to come to neutral before shifting gears
For those who never lift their eyes off the computer when typing, its often hard to take breaks in between the writing. Taking breaks is akin to “losing your thread of thought”.
First, let me tell you a few things about breaks. You should not try to take breaks while you are writing about a certain point and you need to complete the arguments on that point. Breaking in between a paragraph will break your chain of thought.
Instead, you should take breaks between points that you write about, say, after every sub-heading and its text are complete. This way your break gives you time to wipe your mind clean after the point you previously made, so you can now shift gears to make the next point your focus.
Some people are so troubled by the deadlines for completing their books that they never take breaks at all. This is highly counterproductive because your brain needs to get to neutral before it can change gears. You cannot fight your brain’s nature to meet a deadline. In fact, a correct break now and then revitalizes the mind. In the final analysis, your ebook will get written faster because of the periodic refreshing of your mind.
How much time for a break is good? I’d say about ten minutes. Give yourself a ten-minute break after every 40 minutes of steady writing – or thereabouts. But don’t make the break so long that the mojo for continuing your writing goes away. Drink water during breaks, take a few deep breaths, do some head rolls to loosen your stiff neck and shoulders, or do some up-and-down walking away from your desk. Do whatever it takes to feel re-energized, and if a few sips of coffee or tea does it for you, drink it in moderation, piping hot.
Ten minutes up? Go back to work, but here again take a minute or two to reorient yourself with what you have to write next. Then once you have got the gist of everything to say, get your head down and get going … till the next natural break.
8. Maybe you have more knowledge than you could use: don’t slow down to try to find a place for everything in the same ebook
It’s common to do a lot of research before you write your ebook. No matter how much you read – from other books, from data, from surveys, from current research – it always feels like you may not have enough for your ebook.
But when you pull your notes together you’ll invariably find you have collected too much information that takes you all over the place on your topic.
It’s no harm knowing a lot. The problem happens when you think everything you have gathered has to find a place in your currently in-progress ebook. It’s like some kind of self-imposed mandate to stuff all that hard work into your ebook, maybe because you are not sure you’ll ever write another one that can absorb all the leftover information you’ve gathered. Leaving valuable material out feels like shortchanging your own efforts and hard work.
But see how easy it is to get trapped into thinking the ebook is “all about you and your hard work” than about what the ebook should do for your customer? Does the customer need information overload? Or does the customer need something to the point, crisp, and easy to comprehend and apply to life and work?
Sifting through your knowledge database researched for the ebook, and including only what is relevant, is a painful but necessary task. Tell yourself that you will write more ebooks in future, where some of the stuff you decide not to use can be valuable. But you are not going to try and bung it all in this one ebook.
The secret to being more authoritative and confident in your writing, to get that writing done fast and flawlessly, is to know a lot but to say only what’s really needed by the consumer of your ebook. Don’t shortcut the research, but don’t get so wedded to what you have collected that you want to use all of it. Sharpen your knowledge with deep and broad information gathering, but give the customer only what he is buying the book for. This way you grow and he grows too – and both of you have a different stage of growth you are going through.
9. Write for your target audience persona whom you must hold in mind: you shouldn’t be thinking of the friends you want to impress
Okay, now here’s another big point about losing writing speed. But I have to tell you a story before you get the drift. I had a colleague of mine in my advertising days, who was also a copywriter like me. For long, she had felt she had a book in her and decided to publish it as an ebook.
Her forte (her niche, actually) was in time management. So, she decided to create an ebook on time management, simplified for people who always procrastinated, and never got things done by deadline. So far so good.
We sat together and zeroed in on her target audience. They would be young interns at offices who needed to learn working disciplines early in their careers – so that anti-procrastination became a mantra and time management became a habit in their lives and careers going forward. The “persona” we identified for my colleague’s ebook was called “Intern Imogen” and we even had a fictitious picture of her and a description of her persona well-defined, so my colleague’s ebook would be bang on target.
Alas, my colleague never really wrote a single sentence for her persona. She was so identified with how our other colleagues in the office would see her ebook as a projection of herself. She would write a sentence, and then change it several times saying, “If Perry (our boss) saw this sentence he’d fire me for giving such advice to interns.” Or, she would write another sentence and say, “This one is sure to be part of the water-cooler gossip gang’s fodder when my ebook comes out.” Or, she would write the third sentence and say, “What are the odds, Francis (our other colleague) will make a meme out of this for social media.”
This budding author was so fearful of her circle of colleagues, friends, and boss to impress with her ebook, that she hardly even had the bandwidth to think of her persona for whom the ebook was being shaped. You would think this is a rare story, but unfortunately, many an ebook is written to impress one’s own circle of opinion-spewing friends and colleagues, that the real target audience for the book goes out of focus.
If you must write an ebook fast and flawlessly, you have to forget that there are people around you – and you must not have any latent agenda to impress them. You have to be focused entirely on your book’s target audience and write for them.
Arm yourself with the rejoinder to give your friends and colleagues and bosses who give unsolicited advice or opinion (if they do at all). Just say, “I didn’t write the book for people of your standard, I’m writing for newbies to time management”.
Most often your friends and colleagues and bosses may already know that, and they may not really be saying anything to you, or about you, or about the ebook – except good things. But in your head, you may be seeing them all as judgmental eagles, with eyes rolling out to critique your every line in your ebook.
Try not to give your colleagues, friends, and bosses any hawkish personas they don’t really have, and focus instead on the pleasant persona you are writing for. Try to be helpful in your advice, and see that you are doing a service to your readers by helping them.
You are not writing this ebook to add a credential to your office appraisal form. This ebook is a separate career line you are pursuing where you are your own boss-friend-colleague, all rolled into one.
10. There’s a great trick to editing your work: it has to do with getting your work read aloud back to you for the sound, grammar, spellings
For those who labor over proof-reading and editing, there is a very simple trick you can follow. I have used this trick to save hours of proof-reading with narrowed eyes and a furrowed forehead. Spellings, grammar, punctuation, and the “sound of the writing tone” – all get checked easily by my method.
Moreover, it’s easy to spot errors that never show up in grammar tools – like when you use “the” twice in a sentence, and the spelling tool doesn’t pick it up because there is no seeming spelling mistake. Grammar tools too may miss it if the two usages of the word “the” appear once at the end of one line and once at the beginning of another line, within the same sentence.
The method I’m talking of is called text-to-speech. You have so many free versions of this tool online and my favorite is “Text 2 Speech“.
Just copy-paste your ebook content, one or two paragraphs at a time, into the box field and get the reader to read aloud the text. If you have bad grammar, spelling errors, or double-typing, the read-aloud will stutter over the words, alerting you that there is something amiss there.
Also, if the tone of the sentence is not okay, you will “hear” that it feels wrong. You will be able to spot mistakes in consistency with singulars-and-plurals of words, tense mismatch, or easy-to-miss things like dollar signs before currency numbers.
Sometimes, a sentence may have too many clauses, and you’ll find the read-aloud going crazy with the meandering of the sentence. You will itch to correct it.
You will also not make mistakes in your writing by inserting clauses in the wrong places. As my father used to point out often, one man wrote a letter to a company to complain about their broken glass bottle packs. He wrote, “Returned herewith the bottle to the company with the crack at the top”.
That is just the kind of error that a read-aloud software can help you catch – and save yourself eternal life as the butt of jokes!
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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